BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Friday May 31, 2019 – Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris has strongly defended his government’s administration of St Kitts and Nevis’ Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme which is being scrutinized by two European Parliamentarians.
He is adamant that his Team Unity administration oversees “the best citizenship by investment programme in the world”.
In a letter dated May 10, 2019, members of the European Parliament Ana Gomes and Marietje Schaake wrote to the European Union (EU) Commission, the President of the European Council and other top EU officials, calling for the termination of the visa-free status afforded to St Kitts and Nevis’ citizens. They cited cases of “questionable” individuals getting passports under the CBI programme, which has been in place for 35 years.
“We urge you to consider terminating the visa-free status programme with St Kitts and Nevis unless their authorities can provide full confidence that individuals…are not slipping through the cracks, allowing them access to the European Union,” they wrote.
But at a press conference on
Wednesday, Prime Minister Harris said the situations mentioned by Gomes and
Schaake all occurred under the previous administration led by Dr Denzil Douglas,
and the arguments on which they had based their recommendations were “basically
false, fake news, nothing of the current reality with respect to our programme”.
He said that since taking office in 2015, his Government undertook a comprehensive overhaul of the CBI programme, which led to it “receiving international accolades and being labelled as the platinum standard of the citizenship industry”.
“My Government is satisfied that the significant reforms, which have been made to the CBI programme since our coming to office, our high level of cooperation with our international partners, and the excellent quality of our due diligence have transformed our programme into an international leader amongst all programmes. We regret that our predecessors had not exercised the proper due care and attention. We inherited serious problems in 2015, but we have since consecrated that history and we now have the best CBI programme in the world. We are open, transparent and democratic, and our programme provides the global platinum standard for its safety and security,” Harris said.
“Our due diligence is one of the best. It is multi-layered and multifaceted, using international firms and agencies.”
The Kittitian leader said his Government was therefore very disappointed in the European Parliamentarians’ letter requesting “scrutiny of our programme without a scintilla of evidence of any wrongdoing by anyone in our programme, and by relying on misdeeds of the former Douglas regime and the inaccurate claim that a Russian citizen of interest to law enforcement agencies was an economic citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis since 2014”.
Harris was referring to the claim by the MPs that Andrei Pavlov, a Russian suspected of being involved in the 2009 murder of Russian auditor Sergei Magnitsky, had obtained a St Kitts and Nevis passport under the CBI. However, although he admitted to making inquiries, Pavlov said he had not gone ahead with the application. The Government also confirmed that the Russian never had St Kitts and Nevis citizenship.
“The instances which they quoted were instances related to a regime which had long passed,” Harris said.
“It is not a good reflection of the reliability and seriousness of members of the European Parliament that they should seek punitive action against any entity without giving the accused the benefit of due process and natural justice and without regard for the consequences of their ill-informed letter, not just for the viability of the CBI programme of St Kitts and Nevis but also for the wider Caribbean. We therefore call on those two MPs…to recall their letters and to apologize to our people,” Prime Minister Harris said.